It is well recognized that activation of the coagulation system plays an important role in bleomycin (BLM)-induced lung injury and fibrosis. The protein C (PC) pathway is an important regulator of the coagulation system. In this study, we evaluated the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) concentration of activated PC (APC) and the therapeutic effect of the intratracheal administration of APC on BLM-induced lung fibrosis in mice. APC levels in BALF were significantly lower in BLM-treated animals than in the saline-treated group. Fibrotic changes were progressive in mice treated with BLM and intratracheal instillation of vehicle (BLM/Veh) after 14 and 21 d of BLM infusion. Compared with the BLM/Veh group, histologic findings on Days 14 and 21 in mice treated with BLM and intratracheal instillation of APC (BLM/APC) showed less fibrotic lesions in the subpleural and central areas of the lung. The mean Aschcroft's fibrosis score in the BLM/Veh group was significantly (p < 0.05) higher than in the BLM/APC group. The lung hydroxyproline content on Day 21 was significantly higher (p < 0.05) in the BLM/Veh group (1.78 +/- 0.07 micromol/lung weight) than in the BLM/APC (1.30 +/- 0.06 micromol/lung weight) group. The ratio of plasminogen activator activity to thrombin level in BALF was significantly increased in the BLM/APC group compared with the BLM/ Veh group on Day 21. The expression of tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1beta was significantly decreased in the lungs of the BLM/APC group compared with the BLM/Veh group on Day 14 after BLM infusion. These results showed that intratracheal APC administration inhibits the development of lung fibrosis in BLM-induced lung injury, giving further support to the important role that the PC pathway plays in the mechanism of lung fibrosis.